M. Scott Eiland
Anya walked through the magic shop, making notes as to what items needed to be re-stocked. With the Council of Watchers gone, business had basically gotten back to normal, although the ever-present threat of Glory and the new one posed by the Knights of Byzantium had everyone on edge. Giles had gone out to run an errand, and Xander had just stopped by to ask her what she wanted for dinner before departing again.
Anya smiled, thinking of Xander and how even with that annoying cast, he still could make her tingle every time he walked into the room. She was in the midst of remembering a particularly great kiss he had given her that morning when she spotted something that looked out of place. A large, red leather bound tome that appeared to be about two hundred years old from the looks of it, rested on one of the lower shelves: she didn't remember ever seeing it before. She walked over, picked it up, and carried it over to the counter, where she began skimming over the pages to see what its subject was.
Five minutes later, she gently closed the book, looking totally stunned. It was written, amazingly enough, in clear and concise English, and it dealt with various summoning rituals that had been created over the years for a wide variety of purposes. One of those rituals dealt with summoning objects through space and time from a known time and place, and was both more powerful and easier to cast than the one that she had tricked Willow into casting almost two years ago. Even with her relatively meager spell casting abilities, she could perform the ritual with little problem. She could have her amulet-and her powers-back before Giles finished his errand and came back.
Anya stared at the book, and joy warred with fear within her mind. She could go back to her old life...be free of the inevitability of death, and all of the other annoyances of mortal existence. She automatically began reaching for the components for the ritual, then stopped.
She closed her eyes and thought of Xander: the silly grin he gave her when they were sitting in his living room, watching television and eating popcorn...the look in his eyes as he told her for the first time that he was in love with her...the feeling of his finger trailing down her spine after they had finishing making love...all of it. She had a moment of revulsion, and the impulse to shred the book to pieces...but Anya could feel the tug of eleven centuries of existence pulling on her, and she went back to obtaining the ritual components, ruthlessly quashing the voice within her that begged her not to continue.
Anya opened her eyes and stared at the glowing green necklace with awe: she had forgotten how beautiful it was. With a shaking hand, she reached for it and clasped it around her neck.
The old sense of power rushed into her body, and she involuntarily laughed out loud. How could she have let such a small thing as the love of a mortal make her think of abandoning hope of regaining her powers forever? What a fool she had been...she glanced down at the necklace and resolved to be more careful in the future: the ritual would only work once with regard to any one object. If she lost it again, she would be right back where she was earlier that day.
She gathered her powers and was about to teleport back to D'Hoffryn's realm to let him know she was back in business when the pull of her more recent memories caused her to pause. Could she just leave now, with Xander never knowing what had happened? With her powers, her contempt for men in general had returned with a vengeance, but when she tried to push the feelings away with that contempt, she found it ineffective. She frowned: if she didn't deal with this, it was going to annoy her and keep her from enjoying her return to glory.
After a moment, a cruel smile appeared on her face, and she decided on a course of action. Though the nature of her job usually had her granting wishes to women, the power would also work if she wished to grant a wish to a man, for whatever reason. She would trick him into making a wish, and the foolhardiness of his wish would allow her to see him for what her basic beliefs insisted he was: just another man. If he happened to wish for something that benefited him, then she'd just write it off to bad luck and perhaps as a parting gift...after all, he was a Viking in bed.
As a matter of recently acquired routine, she replaced the red book on the shelf where she had found it before she exerted her powers and appeared outside Xander's apartment, looking just as she had when he saw her last. She let herself in with her key and called out, "I'm here."
Xander called out, "Hey, Anya...I'm in the kitchen." Anyanka walked over to the kitchen and found him scrubbing the oven. He heard her footsteps and commented, "Remind me never to let Buffy cook over here again...there are burned substances in here that I don't even what to know what they are..."
Anyanka nodded, then began, "Xander, do you remember how much I wanted to get my powers back when we first met?"
Xander chuckled and replied, "Yes...I do seem to remember that was basically all you thought about...at least until you asked me to the prom."
Anyanka felt a pang of guilt, then forced it down as she continued, "Suppose I had managed to get my powers back, say, in the last week or so...what would you think about that?"
Xander stiffened visibly, then replied without turning around, "I probably would never find out, Anya...if you got your powers back, I'd assume that you'd have more important things on your mind than a mere mortal boyfriend."
Anyanka involuntarily blinked, then replied, "Well, maybe...but suppose I did come back, to say goodbye, and I decided to grant you a wish, you know, for not being the scum of the earth that most men are...what do you think you'd wish for?"
Xander laughed, then replied, "Anya...if there's one thing I've learned, it's that screwing around with magic isn't a great idea. I'd be afraid to wish for anything really big, like getting rid of Glory, or bringing back Ms. Calendar, because I'd be afraid that it would blow up in my face and make things worse."
Anyanka nodded; man or not, Xander was a lot smarter than people gave him credit for. She regrouped and pressed, "Yeah...I can see that, but if you really had to make a wish, what would you wish for.?"
Xander paused for a moment, then replied, "There's only one thing I can think of." Anyanka tensed, feeling the pulsing of the necklace on her neck as she waited for his answer. Xander sighed, and continued softly, "I'd wish that you knew with every fiber of your being just how much I love and respect you, how much I need and want you to stay in my life...not the all-powerful demon, but the woman who has chosen to make me happier than I have ever been in my life."
Anyanka felt her face change, and she whispered, "Done." All at once, a rush of emotions overwhelmed her, as she saw herself through Xander's eyes over the last year and a half...the initial suspicion... the disappointment when she had fled from the Ascension... the shock he had felt at her return...the fury and guilt he had felt when he had thought Spike had killed her...the comfort he had felt when she consoled him when he thought his friends thought he was useless...all of it.
The face of Anyanka, demonic patron saint of wronged women, morphed back into Anya's features, and the incredibly powerful demon began sobbing as if the world was about to end. Xander was at her side in a flash and held her as she cried. He lifted her head up with his hand and asked, "What's the matter, Anya...you knew how I felt about you, didn't you?"
She looked up at him and answered truthfully in a whisper, "Not the way I do right now." She pulled away from him and said, "I need to go to the bathroom...I'll be right back." She rushed into the bathroom without another word, and Xander had turned back to the oven when he heard a loud smashing sound. He ran over to the bathroom and asked in a concerned voice, "Are you all right, Anya?"
There was silence on the other side of the door for several seconds, then Anya replied, "I'm all right...just smashed a cockroach." Xander waited until she came out, and smiled when he saw her, commenting, "That's my girl...doing battle against the forces of darkness and ickyness." He kissed her on the forehead, then beckoned to her as he concluded, "Come on...the oven's clean enough, and I'm going to start dinner."
Anya smiled and followed him into the kitchen. The phone rang, and Xander picked it up: "Hello...hey, Giles. Oh, she's here..." Xander turned and made a tsk-tsk motion with his free hand as he continued, "She's feeling a bit under the weather, and since you haven't moved into the modern era and gotten a cell phone, she decided to close up a little early rather than gross out the customers by barfing all over the place." There was an apologetic sounding reply, and Xander concluded, "She's feeling better...she should be there in the morning." Apparently thinking of something at the last moment, he added, "Oh, by the way...I found a book in those boxes you were having me look through...something about summoning rituals. It should be on that shelf next to the unicorn display...you might want to have a look at it... catch you later." Xander hung up the receiver, then turned to see Anya staring at him. He raised an eyebrow and asked, "What's wrong?"
Anya walked up to him and whispered, "You put that book there...where you knew I would find it, knowing what it would mean to me."
Xander nodded, and Anya exploded in rage, beating on him with her fists as he made a half-hearted attempt to protect himself. After a few moments, she became winded enough that she regained some composure, and she stepped back from him and asked, "Why? Why would you take a chance like that...do you know how close I came to going back to the way things were before...to leaving you and going back to being a vengeance demon forever?"
Xander blinked, and tears appeared in his eyes as he sank into an easy chair. Anya sat across from him, her eyes dancing with confusion and anger. Xander sighed and responded, "I found the book, Anya, and I had no trouble finding that ritual...I thought about destroying the book, but there might have been other copies, or other books that it was in...sooner or later, I figured that you would find that ritual and be tempted by it. I wanted to make sure you found it when I could give it my best shot to convince you to stay."
Anya blinked, then asked, "But how could you know that I would come back and offer you a wish?"
Xander looked down for a moment, then replied, "It was just a hunch...I was sure that you just wouldn't walk away, and it occurred to me that giving me a wish would be something that both the part of you that loved me and the part that wanted to prove that I was just another scumbag of a guy would get together on...I'm just glad that I was right." He motioned to the bathroom and asked, "You smashed the amulet in there?"
Anya nodded and responded, "I almost couldn't make myself do it...I was afraid that I would lose the knowledge that your wish gave to me...the feelings, the memories...but it stayed...every last bit of it." She threw herself at him, causing him to wince as she hugged spots that were now bruised, but he said nothing as she clung to him.
He sat there with her, stroking her hair and enjoying the feeling of her being there, for several minutes before he chuckled and commented, "Well, I still need to get dinner ready, Anya."
Anya looked up at him and replied, "How long does Pizza Supreme take to deliver?"
Xander blinked and replied, "About forty minutes."
Anya got up and walked over to the phone. A short conversation followed, after which Anya hung up the phone and stalked back over to Xander, seizing his hand and dragging him towards the bedroom as she muttered, "After the stunt you just pulled, you've got more important things to do than cooking."
Xander smiled wickedly, but he shuddered involuntarily at the close calls he had had that night before brightening again as the two young lovers darted through the doorway, closing the door behind them.